Sam Rockwell to Tackle Cowboys & Aliens


Actor Sam Rockwell
Actor Sam Rockwell

According to The Hollywood Reporter Sam Rockwell (IRON MAN 2, MOON) has signed on for Jon Favreau’s (IRON MAN 2, ZATHURA) upcoming sci-fi film, COWBOYS & ALIENS. He’ll be joining an already star studded cast which includes the likes of Harrison Ford (STAR WARS, INDIANA JONES) and Daniel Craig (THE GOLDEN COMPASS, THE INVASION).

Rockwell is to star in the upcoming superhero film, IRON MAN 2, which was also directed by Favreau, so the two must of hit if off pretty well. COWBOYS & ALIENS is a graphic novel adaptation in which a group of angry extraterrestrials invade the Old West. Writers Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Damon Lindelof have had to work with Favreau to re-imagine the role of ‘Doc’, a bartender who helps our heroes battle the alien nasties, for Rockwell to boost his screen time and change his appearance from a heavy-set boozer.
I’m quietly anticipating this one and the addition of Rockwell to the cast can only be  a good thing. COWBOYS & ALIENS is set to start shooting in June.

Dark Crystal Sequel Officially Confirmed


Still from the original Dark Crystal
Still from the original Dark Crystal

Today The Jim Henson Company posted an official press release for the DARK CRYSTAL sequel, POWER OF THE DARK CRYSTAL, on their website. Rumours about a DARK CRYSTAL sequel have been abound for years now but it seems as if it’s actually happening as Paul and Michael Spierig (DAYBREAKERS, UNDEAD) have signed on to direct the film in Australia, and in 3D.

The script, written by Craig Pearce (MOULIN ROUGE!, ROMEO + JULIET), apparently takes place hundreds of years after the events of the original film, when when dark forces have once again fallen across the land. A girl made of fire must, with the help of a Gelfling outcast, to use a fragment of the titular crystal to re-start the sun. Legendary fantasy artist Brian Froud (DARK CRYSTAL, LABYRINTH) has already begun creating the conceptual design for the movie, which is to blend traditional puppetry and animatronics with CGI. The Spierigs, speaking of the project, state,

“We feel a tremendous amount of responsibility in telling this story with the same meticulous care that Jim Henson and Frank Oz gave the 1982 original. This is a chance to take the world of puppetry into the modern age by using modern techniques (like motion capture CGI) and the tried and true methods (like puppetry and animatronics) to create a one hundred percent real world that is unique to THE DARK CRYSTAL”.

While a sequel to such a beloved film is risky business, and the Spierig brothers don’t exactly have the best track record, the fact that Froud is involved and directors’ intentions to use animatronics as well as CGI is encouraging. We’ll have to see how this one pans out as more news comes our way.

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron_Man_2_poster

A worthy if not spectacular successor, IRON MAN 2 recaptures all the wit and exhuberance of the original

Before 2008, who really cared about Iron Man, one of Marvel’s minor characters – perhaps best known for the Black Sabbath song heard so prominently in the film’s trailer. Who knew who director Jon Favreau was? Even Robert Downey Jr. – a respected and well-known actor – hadn’t achieved Hollywood blockbuster status yet. The release of IRON MAN changed all of this – not only earning almost $600 million at the international box office, but also becoming one of the most critically lauded comic book adaptations ever, one that demanded a follow-up.
However, when the inevitable cries for a sequel were heard, things quickly became troubled: Favreau’s unlikely to return as director; oh no, he’s back. Terrence Howard has been fired; he’s to be replaced by Don Cheadle. Emily Blunt’s been cast; oh wait, she’s off the project. With all the issues of casting, production schedules, and who got paid what, it’s a minor miracle that IRON MAN 2 even saw the light of day. Thankfully, the sequel has emerged from the other end of the tunnel with all the wit and exuberance of the original intact – a worthy, if not spectacular, successor to IRON MAN.
IRON MAN 2 picks up six months after Tony Stark’s revelation to the world that he is the metal clad hero of the title; in the interim, his ego has inflated to even larger proportions than previously thought possible. Meanwhile, Ivan Vanko, a criminal Russian physicist, is planning revenge against the Stark family, and rival entrepreneur Justin Hammer is growing tired of Tony’s media dominance. The film opens, somewhat strangely, with its worst scene: Vanko tending his terminally ill father in Russia. There is so much over-the-top Russian stereotyping (Vanko drinking vodka from the bottle in a snow drenched, crummy apartment building) and hammy acting (Mickey Rourke’s Darth Vader moment) that it’s embarrassingly bad. Fortunately, after this false start, the film quickly drops us headfirst into the Stark Expo, a sequence energized by the blisteringly sounds of AC/DC.
iron-man-2The original IRON MAN wouldn’t have been nearly as good if it were not for the characterisation of Tony Stark as a man with an egotistical, eccentric, yet brilliant mind, and Robert Downey Jr. was the perfect actor to embody that personality. The enthusiasm and maddening determination he brought to the role made the film, and the same is true for the sequel. Downey’s performance in IRON MAN 2 is ridiculously enjoyable to watch; he’s probably responsible for at least half the film’s entertainment value. That said, the new additions to the cast manage to grab their own share of the spotlight.
Don Cheadle, replacing Terrence Howard as Lt. Col. James Rhodes, outdoes his predecessor by miles – not just because his character is given more narrative prominence but also because Cheadle is the all-round better actor, bringing a greater sense of authority and, when needed, comedic charm to the character. Mickey Rourke (save for the aforementioned emotional outburst) adds just the right amount of weird to his villainous Vanko, delivering some of the script’s best lines. Sam Rockwell excels as the tragically comic Hammer, a man desperate to outdo Stark but without the necessary means, and Scarlett Johansson delivers a surprisingly kick-ass (and not so surprisingly easy on the eyes) turn as Tony’s new assistant, Natalie Rushman.
Favreau retains his knack for entertaining, kinetic action sequences. The director has always injected his fight scenes with a sense of humour, and these moments elevate IRON MAN 2 a level above just being men in robot suits smacking one another. It’s the first outburst of flames, during Stark’s eleventh hour decision to compete at Monaco, that really stands out, however. Vanko (in his new Whiplash persona) enters the course on foot, tearing up high-powered cars left and right with a thoroughly frightening sense of determination, all shot in brilliantly realised slow-motion. During this moment, we most fear for Stark, and it’s a truly breathtaking piece of cinema.
Iron-Man-2-Black-Widow-scarlettLater, Scarlett Johansson also gets in on the action, infiltrating Hammer’s facility. We watch as she effortlessly cuts through security guards one by one, like a hot knife through butter. It’s an impressively choreographed and memorable sequence, one that will leave audiences with their jaws  resting firmly on the floor.
The special effects are also impressive. Although the CGI in IRON MAN was mostly up to the code, there were a few rough moments. With IRON MAN 2 this is no longer a problem: the technical and visual achievements rank among the best to date, investing every scrape, blow and explosion with believability.
This is not to suggest that IRON MAN 2 over-relies on pyrotechnics. The script is as sharp as ever. Stark’s witty banter with his detractors remains a highlight, especially when in two particularly hilarious scenes wherein Stark goes toe to toe against Senator Stern (Gary Shandling) and Nick Fury (Sam Jackson gets a lot more screen time round, and the film is all the better for it).
Pacing, on the other hand, is the weakness in IRON MAN 2’s armor. The narrative initially feels jet-propelled, but after Whiplash’s first attack on Stark the story becomes a little muddled, scattershot, and (dare I say it?) boring. At mid-point, there are several plot threads developing simultaneously, none of which are exceptionally interesting or well executed, and it begins to feel as if the second act is treading water in anticipation of the climax. When the battle sequence finally arrives, it’s highly enjoyable, but (just like the first film) it is over far too quickly.
This leads to my next criticism: lack of threat. There is one point, and one point only, during which the audience is in any real doubt as to whether Stark will make it out alive, and that is near the beginning. After that, IRON MAN 2 becomes very predictable: you realise that none of Iron Man’s opponents are going to put him in any tangible danger. Fortunately, these issues dim but do not destroy the overall impact of this amusing and exciting slice of blockbuster superhero cinema.
Untitled
IRON MAN 2 (2010). Director: Jon Favreau. Writers: Justin Theroux (screenplay) and Stan Lee (original comic books). Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke and Samuel L. Jackson.
[serialposts]

Krueger Slashes Box Office



Still from A Nightmare on Elm Street
Still from A Nightmare on Elm Street


Once again the horror genre proves itself to be critic-proof as Samuel Bayer’s remake of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is sitting atop the weekend box office with a respectable $32.2 million. The film currently holds a ‘rotten’ 15% rating at Rotten Tomatoes but that didn’t stop it from storming the box office and fending off other high-profile releases.
Rounding off the top three were two films with surprisingly strong staying power; HOW TO TRAIN YOUR earned another $10.8 million at second place and DATE NIGHT came in third with $7.6 million. Jennifer Lopez’ tax paying vehicle, THE BACK-UP PLAN, went from second place to forth with $7.2 million whilst new entry, FURRY VENGEANCE, couldn’t even muster up $7 million (it earned only $6.5). Seems the lure of Brendan Fraser being hit in the testicles by animals wasn’t enough for cinema-goers.
As for the last five, THE LOSERS came in at 6th, CLASH OF THE TITANS went down to 7th, KICK-ASS was 8th, DEATH AT A FUNERAL 8th and OCEANS, the new Disney sea documentary, rounds off the list at 10th. In related news, IRON MAN 2 was released on the other side of the pond and has already  managed to drum up over $100 million.
These box office stats. come courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

Niels Arden to Adapt The Keep


The Keep novella
The Keep novella

According to Bloody Disgusting Niels Arden, fresh from the international success of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, is heading to Hollywood to adapt Jennifer Egan’s horror novella, THE KEEP. The book was
published by Knopf, and is a supernatural thriller set in a haunted castle in which a woman is seduced by a mysterious prisoner.
The full synopsis reads:

Two cousins, irreversibly damaged by a childhood prank whose devastating consequences changed both their lives, reunite twenty years later to renovate a medieval castle in Eastern Europe, a castle steeped in blood lore and family pride. Built over a secret system of caves and tunnels, the castle and its violent history invoke and subvert all the elements of a gothic past: twins, a pool, an old baroness, a fearsome tower. In an environment of extreme paranoia, cut off from the outside world, the men reenact the signal event of their youth, with even more catastrophic results. And as the full horror of their predicament unfolds, a prisoner, in jail for an unnamed crime, recounts an unforgettable story — a story about two cousins who unite to renovate a castle — that brings the crimes of the past and present into piercing relation.

THE KEEP was adapted for the screen by Ehren Kruger (THE RING, THE SKELETON KEY) and is being produced by Rogue Pictures.

Release Date for Batman 3 Confirmed


The late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
The late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

Warner Bros’ distribution chief, Dan Fellman, recently sent out an email confirming the release date for Christopher Nolan’s (THE DARK KNIGHT, INCEPTION) BATMAN 3 and it’s the 20th of July, 2012. While this isn’t too surprising (given that both of the previous BATMAN reboots were released on that date and INCEPTION is due out on the 16th of July this year) it’s good to know that the film isn’t too far off.

BATMAN 3 will be going up against a lot of stiff competition in 2012 as THE AVENGERS, SPIDER-MAN, BATTLESHIP and STAR TREK 2 are all also being released in two years time. Very little is known about the third BATMAN reboot, it doesn’t even have a name yet, but we know that Nolan’s brother is working hard on the script and that most of the main cast are contracted for a third film.
Now let’s get writing our villain wish lists….

Sara Paxton Is An Innkeeper


Actress Sara Paxton
Actress Sara Paxton

According to Shock ‘Til You Drop Sara Paxton (THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, HAUNTED LIGHTHOUSE) has signed on for Ti West’s (THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL) new horror film, THE INKEEPERS. She’ll be joining a cast which already includes Kelly McGillis, George Ridley and Pat Healy.

THE INKEEPERS will follow the last two employees of an apparently haunted hotel, who are preparing to shut it down after the place has been open for more than 100 years. As time ticks down to the final days of operation, mysterious guests check in including a former TV actress turned psychic and an elderly man insistent on staying in room 353. As several strange occurrences begin to add up, both Claire and Luke must make the crucial decision on what to believe and what not to believe.
Ti West’s previous film, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, was a slow burning throw-back to the horror films of the 70s so anything from the same director is definitely one to watch. Interestingly, THE INKEEPERS is based on West’s time at the Inn while he was shooting THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL.
West begins shooting THE INKEEPERS this week in Connecticut.

Sharlto Copley Talks District 9 Prequel


Still from District 9
Still from District 9

Sharlto Copley, star of last years sci-fi sleep hit, DISTRICT 9, has been talking to Empire during the press tour for THE A-TEAM and sheds some light on its follow up. Copley explains how he and DISTRICT 9 director, Neil Blomkamp, are thinking of making a prequel rather than a direct sequel and plan to shoot it after Blomkamp is done with his next feature film.

Copley and Blomkamp are apparently determined to ensure that it’s not a typical sequel and mention the possibility that it could be a prequel,

“There’s a million ways you can go. Neil’s actually very interested in prequels as well; he’s said that a few times. We wouldn’t do the traditional Hollywood version of the sequel which would just be 100 aliens fighting humans.”

Copley adds,

“Neil wants it and I want it. Neil’s doing another film first. Then I think if everything goes according to plan we’ll do the second film in about two years time. That story can go in so many different ways. There’s a whole universe. I’m sure a lot of writers say that, but we actually have an entire universe.”

The first DISTRICT 9 told the story of how an extraterrestrial race, forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth, suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent who is exposed to their biotechnology. DISTRICT 9 was an amazingly fresh and exciting dose of sci-fi action so it’s good to hear that both the films star and director don’t want to go the obvious route with the sequel. As for a release date, it seems we’ll have to wait a while longer but you can be sure Cinefantastique Online will keep you updated on the project.

to ensure that it’s not a typical sequel – and the possibility that it could be a prequel.

The Hobbit Coming in 2013?


Gandalf The Grey in the Lord of The Rings
Gandalf The Grey in the Lord of The Rings

Following Peter Jackon’s previous recap on highly anticipated fantasy prequel, THE HOBBIT, comes a new press release from IMAX.com which states the film is due for release in 2013. A lot could happen between now and then but it’s a good signal that the troubled production is finally getting closer to our screens.

THE HOBBIT, an two-part adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s tale which leads up to the events depicted in the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, still doesn’t have a greenlight due to the ongoing financial issues faced by MGM. However, since this press release is as official as they come it seems as if Warner Bros. are confident THE HOBBIT will overcome these problems as it states a December 2013 release date projected for the film.
The press release also mentions other big movies, with release dates for Zack Snyder’s (WATCHMEN, 300) LEGENDS OF THE GUARDIAN: THE OWLS OF GA’HOOLE (September this year) and the two final HARRY POTTER films (November this year and July next year respectively). Additionally BATMAN 3 and the new SUPERMAN also get a mention, but have no release dates attached.
This is good news for Tolkien fans around the globe but shouldn’t be read as the gospel; there’s still no greenlight for the project and there’s a lot of time between now 2013 in which for things to go wrong. Fingers crossed people…

Universal Going For a Maximum Ride


Cover for the Maximum Ride novel
Cover for the Maximum Ride novel

According to The Hollywood Reporter Sony have backed out of producing the adaptation of James Patterson’s MAXIMUM RIDE series and instead Universal are trying for the rights. They want to adapt the fantasy novels for the big screen and have Catherine Hardwicke (TWILIGHT, THE GIRL WITH THE RED RIDING HOOD) lined up to direct.

MAXIMUM RIDE is a series of six young adult science fiction/fantasy books which chronicle the lives of six human/avian fugitives. Bred in a science lab called ‘The School’, the Flock endured scientific experiments that rendered them 98% human and 2% avian. After learning to fly, they escape the laboratory where they’ve been kept and flee a pack of human/wolf beings known as the Erasers.
Universal have hired Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (IRON MAN) to write the script, which Sony had ditched as it got in the way of their SPIDER-MAN reboot, and Universal’s Tracy Falco and Franklin Leonard will be overseeing the project for the studio. I can’t say this project incites much interest for me but it’s sure to sell well to teenagers eager for the next TWILIGHT-type craze.